Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
Losing ground


On May 28, top Madhesi leaders could be seen strolling around outside the CA complex. Senior TMDP leaders went to the nearby Beijing Roast Duck restaurant for a bite. MJF's Jai Prakash Gupta, Sadbhavana's Anil Jha, and TMDP's Jitendra Sonar were chatting with journalists about what could happen. Others were sitting on the lawns or in the makeshift canteen.

The absence of Madhesi leaders in negotiations that would determine the future of the country was striking. It was symbolic of the steady erosion of Madhesi political strength.

Madhesi parties complain this is because the 'pahadi parties' have monopolised decision-making. Their exclusion from the now-defunct High Level Political Mechanism is cited as proof of the Kathmandu mindset.

But the whining is pointless. No one willingly shares power in politics. Power has to be created. Madhesi parties did that in 2007 and 2008 through agitations. They exercised power after the elections with their impressive numbers. If they are not seen as worthy of even consultations now, they should reflect within about what has changed.

The first reason for the dip in their relevance is the continued fragmentation of Madhesi parties. This is natural, given the heterogeneous social structure of the Madhes. No one party has sought to build a broad-based alliance; the under-representation of Madhesi Dalits, Muslims, non-Yadav OBCs and Tharus is a pointer to how there will be even more forces in the future. These parties are also top-heavy and the egos of all leaders cannot be reconciled within a single party framework.

But the India-encouraged split in the MJF last year was a turning point. It shrank the Madhes' bargaining power drastically, and led to widespread popular disillusionment in the Tarai. It also resurrected the conservative social forces of the region. Note that most ministers from MJF(D) in this government had nothing to do with either of the Madhes movements, are implicated in massive corruption cases, come from feudal 'jamindari' backgrounds, and only joined Madhesi politics before the elections to cash in on popular sentiment.

The second reason is that Madhesi parties have been subsumed under the 'national' Maoist-non Maoist polarisation, which has been framed as a battle between authoritarianism and democracy. 'Madhes issues' have been relegated to the background.

MJF(D), TMDP and Sadbhavana see NC and UML as natural allies in the fight to preserve democracy. Upendra Yadav's MJF feels the 'save democracy' rhetoric is a trap to block political change and impose a 1990s-type system. It views the Maoists as natural allies in the quest for federalism and inclusion. Privately, even top TMDP leaders admit that the Maoists are more supportive of their agenda, as seen in CA committee deliberations and their federal map, which has a Madhes province. But they cite Maoist violence, radicalism and anti-Indianism as stumbling blocks towards any understanding with them. The unstated reason is also the conflicting social bases of Madhesi parties (largely upper and intermediate castes) and the Maoists (extremely backward castes, Dalits, landless, janjatis and pahadis) in the Tarai.

India's real or perceived leverage over Madhesi parties has also harmed its standing in Kathmandu power politics. NC, UML and even the Maoists do not quite see the point of engaging with Madhesi leaders when the sense is that Madhesi parties will toe the Indian line. By and large, this is a correct assessment. A Madhesi leader told an Indian official recently, only half-jokingly, "We have put all our issues in a basket and handed it to you. Now it is your responsibility. Once you have dealt with the Maoists, address those as well!"

Support from India helps Madhesi parties and individual leaders in many ways, and is based on the extremely strong and dense links between India and the Tarai. But the resulting lack of autonomy has its pitfalls. The Madhes is but a card for India in its larger strategic objective of having a friendly regime in Kathmandu. The dip in violence by armed groups in the Tarai since Madhav Nepal took over is not a coincidence and reflects how India will use, or defuse, Madhesi forces according to its convenience.

As the controversy over the next PM sharpens, there is a buzz in Madhesi circles about how it is their turn to lead since the top three have failed. Mahant Thakur's name as a compromise candidate has been floated. Nothing can be ruled out in Nepali politics, but he or some other Madhesi leader would have stood a far greater chance if they had been more pro-active, united, autonomous, and connected to their roots.

Life support, Publisher's note
The intellectual dilemma, Mohan Bikram Singh
Blow your own trumpet, Indu Nepal
The partisan press, CK Lal
Making work work, Ashutosh Tiwari
350 days for new constitution, Ass

1. Dipti Sikha

Prashant Ji,

Madhesi Parties has never been in power and is not in position to be in in coming future. But it is not surprising. Even being a Madhesi I don't wonder why Madhesis are not being in power. Anyone can clearly see the whole power influence from the south block on total Nepali politics, so how can one imagine that the Madhes politics should go beyond that. But believe me that it was not the Madhesi Parties who led the Madhes movement but the people of Madhes movement gave the credit and increased the hight of the Madhesi Parties.

The time will come when the people of Nepal will decide of it's own leaders and so with the Madhes. Be hopeful that one day will certainly come when Madhesi people will find their own leader and own politics with own strong power.


2. jange
Hardly surprising. The Madhesi parties got into the CA on the coat tails of Maoist violence. With the decline in acceptance of maoist violence it is only natural that the Madhesi parties star would wane too.

Like the Maoists the Madhesi parties have no political agenda except to be in power and to exercise power. This is hardly a formula for a successful political career for any party.

The Maoists have pushed back Nepal's social, political and economic developement. In the same way the Madhesi parties have pushed back Madhes development.

Blaming others is not the answer. Look to your own thoughts and deeds.

3. Astha Thakur

Ohh, So dipti thinks that the day will certainly come where Madhesis will have the power. But why you think that power of Madhesi will be counted when the Madhesi Parties will be ruling? Don't you see the possibility of only the Madhesi leaders will be wining from the Madhes, only the Madhesis will be the president of VDC, DDC and else. We should be confident that after few years there will be only Madhesi CDOs and SPs in Madhes. Is that not a gradual progress and achievement of power?

Why should one talk about the corrupt politicians, they are not only in Madhes rather scattered all around the world. But identity of Madhes is with Madhesi and that will be for ever. It will not be depending on the direction of the South or north block.

4. Ramananda
Excellent Prasahant. These chaeter's in the Name of Madhes has lost all it's credibility. Of course the south block has it's own interest. keep it up

5. yubak

Good analysis!.

6. K. P. Mishra

Prasanta's analysis seems plausable. But why would India split the MJF is not clearly dealt with. This assertion seems unbelievable. Prasanta should either provide credible logical reason, or reliable information to substantiaet this assertion.

 Secondly, the Tharus say they are not Madhesi; the Muslims say they are not Madhesi; the Bengalis { eastern Terai } say they are not Madhesi. And of course, now the other residents of Terai, like pahadis ( Indo-Aryans and Mongols ) are no longer considered as Madhesi. .... So Prasanta's write-up fails to define or identify precisely who are the Madhesi. l

7. manoj aryal

what do you mean by pahadi parties and madehsi parties ?? come on man.. speak something about "nepali" parties..!!! don't try to divide more..!!

8. Thurpunsich
Born, raised and lifelong residents of Chandra Nagar, Sarlahi:

1. Suraj Pradhan
2. Devdhar Prasad
3. Sitaram Adhikari
4. Chetna Shrestha
5. Suraj Joshi
6. Rabindra Jha
7. Budhan Thakur
8. Ramnath Rauniyar
9. Harihar Sharma
10. Rajmatiya Lohar

Who among these are "Madhesis" and who not?

Define "Madhesi Party".

Is the moniker "Madhesi" only applicable to those whose ancestral migratory movement was south-to-north and not north-to-south?

9. Daniel Gajaraj

Tarai  in reality is a genuine  composite culture.It has 35.78% hill-mountain people.Out of 64.22%, Tarai Upper caste is 28.35% ,Tarai Dalits9.53%,Tharu 13.30%, Muslim8.37 Tarai ethnics 2.22%, and Others 2.45%.Strong Pahadi concentration occurs in Kanchanpur, Dang, Nawal Parasi, Chitwan, Morang and Jhapa. Good presence of Pahadi population exists in Kailali,Bardiya,Banke,Rupandehi and Sunsari.Strong Madhesi presence are found  in  Kapilabastu,Parsa, Bara,rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha,Siraha and Saptari only.As Tarai has by now almost 50.00% population of the nation ,it will be a long term investment for  power for Madhesi politicians to create North -South Provinces than  only of south running West-East. one.Statesman lives for the next generation. Politicians live for the next election.But in our conspiratorial politics ,Conspirators live for the forth -coming cup of tea.

10. nidhi
@8, well said. it's easy to understand what Prashant means by Madhesis. It means certain two words linked by hyphen that began with capital i which we used to use before the new tarai buzz made it politically incorrect.

11. Nirmal
uiiii prashant jaatpaat manne arop po lagna thalyo hai. Who is madhesi? If I ask my mother, a daughter of an emigrated pahadiya bahun (in your language) born in inner madhes, she will be doubting on your madhesiness once she visits this page in this site. Just because of different her physical features and forefathers were from other place and she (hypothetically)is from kangres, uml or maobadi party, she deserves to be called from pahadiya party, ergo, be a prisioner's of conscience? Not seems a good classification. And what about those madhesis from pahadiya party(in your language). Then we could go more specifically to their constituencies and call them falano yadav gaunko party, mandal party falano jha samajko neta etc etc. You mean regional and parties with state level presence? I think pahadi party type terminologies are powerful enough to threat gravely the coexistence that a society like ours need to survive in whole Terai belt. I hope(may be against hope) madhesi parties are truly progressists and not performing another casteist number that we are unfortunately accustomed to see.

12. Rudyard Kipling

#8   10

Oh,East is East,and West is West,and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth  and Sky stand presently at God,s great Judgement Seat;

But there is neither East nor West,Border,nor Breed,nor birth,

When two strong men stand face to face ,though they come from the ends of the earth!                                                                                  -The Ballad of East and West.Rudyard  Kipling.1889

13. Dipti Sikha

Oh friends,

Why are you worried with the wording and searching the definition of Madhesis now. You can easily define the Madhesis because you were the one who were using those blackish appearance and even hating the people when you pronounced the word "Madhesi" even you were mispronouncing it "Madhisey", or "dhoti" or "Marsiya" etc. But why now it is changed you are thinking that there is no Madhesi. It is good for us that the word Madhesi with which we were feeling humiliated now we are taking it as our pride. We will certainly be happy to stick with the word Madhesi and even welcome you guys if you would like to come to join Madhesi but you should adopt all the dignity of the Madhes and Madhesi.


14. Thurpunsich

Madhes, as I have always known, is the term Nepalis use to refer to Terai belt of flatlands. It is strictly, and exclusively, a geographical term.

It is not a term that identifies a specific ethnic group. 

Who do you mean by "you" and "we"?

Who from the "List of Chandra Nagar 10" (#8 above) would you include in "you" category and who in "we" category?

It's a nontrivial question. 

15. Dipti

If it is so then why you are angry with the word Madhesi. Hey dear I will appreciate you whoever is if you would feel respected by introducing yourself and feeling proud to be a Madhesi. It is not me to distiguish the people who are Madhesi and who are not?

But go to your village and ask the people yourself they will tell you automatically that we Madhesi or we Pahadi. this is the time when we are proud to pronounce the word "Madhesi" but you are humiliated but I will tell again that once there was a time that those people or again you were feeling proud when you teased us pronouncing Madhesi.

If you agree that Madhes is a territory in Nepal then certainly you have to think that Madhesi is the original population of that place. But it will be difficult for you to accept. Because for "Nepali" Madhesis are the migrant Indians. But they don't think that all the aryans are mirated at one or another time from the Indian territory.

OK enjoy

16. Battisputali
@ Thur

Power creates identity, not the other way around. Although the word Madhes may have signified a geographical region in the past, it has become a political identity because of the movement in 2007 and the various political factions (legitimate or otherwise) that have sprung up/organized from that particular show of power.
The only way that the organization of power in the name of a group or community can be countered is either by 1. The organization of power in the name of the nation (the ultiamte group/community), or 2. The organization of power in the name of the individual (unlikely in Nepal in the short-term but the ideal case).

17. Thurpunsich

I'm not angry at all. It is not an emotion that I let shroud my thoughts. It is not a trait that weighs down my argument. Read up again both #8 and #14 and ask yourself if there was any hint of anger in them.

On the other hand, Dipti Sikha, you seem to be seething with anger. You are the one who's angry. Not me. In public discourse, at some point, you've got to start making some sense. So far, I have only seen what may best be termed as diatribe and drivel. Instead of using logic and focusing on the issue, you let your emotions guide your thoughts go off on tangent.

OK, now. You don't truly know whether I am one of your "you's" or one of your "we's" (I love my anonymous identity, thank you). I may be any one from the list of "Chandra Nagar 10". Or, for that matter, I may be a Jewish journalist living in Tel Aviv.

Simple advice: Keep participating in public discourse, but quit seeing ghost where there is none. 

18. devil


I think you are little confused about identity and how it is made by copelling socio-economic and political realities. I agree with you that Madhesh was a term used to define a geographical area ...and if you can find origin of this term in will see that people living at that time in Madhesh were obviously called madhesi.....Later some people came down from north and colonized madhesh...they kept on humiliating Madhesis till recently....and defined themselves as "Nepali" in my view at present "madhesi" is term with both geographical and ethnic connotations......

In the list you put earlier....I can tell you very frankly that upper 5 are not best I can label them as hyphenated Madhesi......Like we have lived in Nepal for centuries as hyphenated Nepalis.

19. Akanchhya Gurung

Prashant Jha should think twice before writing any issues on ethno-politics.............please do not divide Nepal into Madhesis and Pahadis....Maoists really have opened "pandora's box" with ethnic issues just for their party interests and to capture state power anyhow by hook or crook...............................................................................

20. Balram Prasad Raut
Thank you writer for making some comments on Madhesi political parties. I agree to some extend with your views. I am frustrated from Madhesi leaders. Unless Madhesi parties will join their hand to each other, the demand of Madhesi will remain unfulfilled.

21. Thurpunsich

Help me understand it better then.

You seem to be injecting the notion of indigenousness as a criteria for anyone to be recognized as "Madhesi".

I submit that anyone who was born, raised and is a  lifelong resident of Madhes (whether he or she is a Shrestha, Thapa, Magar, Rana, Tharu, Malla, Rauniyar, Bhongiyar, Lal, Jha, Sah, Shah, Pradhan, etc.) are all Madhesi. 

If we were to agree with your notion of indigenousness, then we'd have to conclude that the only people who are truly Madhesis are the Tharus, who are the recognized indigenous people of Madhes (Terai). They are are largest and oldest ethnic settlers of Terai. 

Small wonder then that the Tharus haven't fallen in the bandwagon propaganda of the self-proclaimed, exclusive-minded "Madhesis" who insist on sticking to such idiosyncratic and divisive notion as "you" and "we".

22. Mohan Rai
The flat land of Tarai also called Madheshas different communities living there; MUpper Castes Madhesis, Tarai Dalits,Tarai ethinics, Tharus,M uslims, and Pahadis hill People. These six groups are the major broad communities.They themselves have many sub-divisionary groups.Eight districts Parsa to Saptari are real Madhes.,where there is concentration of of Madhesis.The whole contry Nepal is cosmopolitan in character. With more urbanization and industrilisation  in the coming days it will be more and more diverse. No one will be able to  change this process. Everyone of us is primarily a Nepali citizen;and secondarily or tertially a pahadi or a madhesi or a Yadhav or a Newar or a Tamang or a Gurung or a Tharu or a Muslim.Mind that: a single can any of you show me  GABISA(VDC ) or  Nagarpalika(NP ) in the whole  country of Nepal which is inhabited by a single community or an ethnic tribe?  Ther is none.I am throwing my gauntlet before you.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)